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Miesha Tate: Julianna Pena took out Amanda Nunes, now ‘I want to take out the other GOAT’ in Valentina Shevchenko

When Miesha Tate came back from retirement, she hoped to again become UFC bantamweight champion and avenge a beating by Amanda Nunes.

Nunes took the title from Tate back at UFC 200 in what was ultimately Tate’s penultimate fight before hanging up her gloves for nearly five years. After returning in 2021, Tate suffered a close decision loss to Ketlen Vieira, which ultimately prompted her to move to 125 pounds at UFC Long Island.

As much as Tate wanted another shot at Nunes, she said watching her close friend Julianna Pena dismantle the Brazilian satiated that need. Now, she’s focused on taking out the current No. 1 pound-for-pound women’s fighter on the planet, Valentina Shevchenko.

“I would have loved to have a rematch with Amanda, but I feel like Julianna getting it done the way she did, I got my fulfillment from that,” Tate said on Wednesday. “Now, I want to take out the other GOAT.”

It turns out the move to flyweight wasn’t some long-held desire Tate had contemplated for years – the division didn’t even exist when she was previously active in the UFC. The drop to 125 pounds was thanks to UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard, whom Tate credits for the idea.

“I said, ‘Well, which one’s going to get me to the title faster?’” Tate remembers. “He seemed to think that 125 was going to get me faster, and I said, ‘You know what? It makes a lot of sense.’

“Julianna has the title right now at 135. This sets me up perfectly, and who wouldn’t want to fight Valentina with all that she’s accomplished.”

After declaring her move to flyweight and booking a matchup against Lauren Murphy on Saturday, Tate ran into Shevchenko while both were training in Las Vegas. Tate said the interaction was nothing but cordial, though she was happy to know she was already on Shevchenko’s radar.

“She was nice,” Tate said. “She said something along the lines like, ‘Now, it’s OK to be nice, maybe in the future on fight week, that will be different.’ Something [like that], I’m paraphrasing, but I said, “Yeah, absolutely. Nothing but love and respect outside of it, but fight time comes.’ It was comforting to me, because I think it meant she definitely sees me as a future opponent.

“I was very excited to hear her mention my name. Because if the champion is saying it, you know it’s going to have some value in it. Because she definitely has some pull in whether she goes up to 135 and fights, or stays right here at 125. I want to make that statement, and I want to say she has work to be done in this division.”

Shevchenko named Tate as a potential opponent after a hard-fought split decision over Taila Santos. The title defense was by far her closest call since claiming the 125-pound title.

As a veteran herself with multiple championship runs on her resume, Tate understands that not every fight will be memorable, and that’s ultimately what she saw with Shevchenko that night.

“I don’t think it was her best one,” Tate said. “I know she had an injury, and everybody has those fights that aren’t their best ones, but I know what Valentina looks like at her best. She’s an animal. She’s an absolute beast.

“I’ve got to get this fight done with Lauren Murphy. She’s ranked inside the top five, so for me this is a real treat – enter the division, get a top-five ranked opponent, and really see in the near future that Valentina is on the horizon.”

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